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Beyond Diapers
Mom with a View

Beyond Diapers

Why do the worlds of bright, educated, talented women narrow so dramatically when they give birth?

by

I just read parts of Judith Warner's book, “Perfect Madness: Motherhood in an Age of Anxiety.” Although she comes at it from a different angle, the author touches on the same issue I’ve been ranting and raving about for the last 22 years (as some of my friends and acquaintances are wont to remind me!). And it hasn’t gotten any better.

Where are, as salon.com calls them, the Mothers Who Think?? Why do the worlds of bright, educated, talented women narrow so dramatically when they give birth?

I don’t mean that women are raising their children thoughtlessly (although that’s potentially another topic); I mean the women who think and talk about something else other than their kids. There’s a whole world out there!! And they would be healthier, happier mothers if they would expand their horizons.

My children are my priority, I just don’t want to talk about them all day.

I was/am a stay-at-home mom. I believe strongly in it and am grateful to have the option. I’ve always done something else on the side but my children are my priority (despite what my teenagers think). I just don’t want to talk about them all day.

I don’t want to hear about sales on children’s clothing, or discuss brands of strollers or the price of cereal. I’ll share your joyful moments with you -- once. Not over and over again. Your child may be adorable but that’s a rather limited conversation.

I want to talk about the potential new Supreme Court Justices, The Grokster case, new tools for personal growth, fascinating insights from the Torah and provocative questions discovered therein.

Don’t get me wrong. I'm not claiming that my discussions are superior or my intellect finer. I’m just describing what I enjoy and how for some reason it's so hard to find…

Even when my children were very young and things were hectic in a different way, I always insisted on having Shabbos guests. Some of the motivation may have been my commitment to reach out to my fellow Jews, but most of it was selfish. I craved adult conversation and the thought-provoking discussions we had at our table. Torah gripped my imagination with its intellectual depth and breadth, with the continually fascinating ideas, new questions and its program for personal and communal growth.

Does motherhood have to mean that our conversations are limited to diaper brands? Or can we unobtrusively wipe up the spit-up as we discuss life’s deeper issues?

Published: July 9, 2005


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Visitor Comments: 40

(40) D E, September 16, 2007 8:00 AM

kids talk

Kids can take over your life, especially as a stayathome mom- and its natural to talk about them a lot. Not everyone needs- or even has the patience and energy- to discuss deep intellectual things; some peoples' growth happens through raising their kids- not in spite of it. I don't think it makes women less bright or talented when they are preoccupied with their childraising/household! And as for educated, one can be educated without it being a main topic of conversation! You are right that some crave "adult conversation" but others just crave conversation with adults and are satisfied talking about their kids. Doesn't make them any less!

(39) Anonymous, July 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Mothering as a dynamic

Thank you Mrs. Braveman for a thougth prevoking blog.
I was/am a stay at home mother for 23 years so far (my baby is 6)When I could, or when we needed the money I did things on the side but they were always very much on the side.
I am not a natural stay at home person. Between my personality and my training it is a big challenge.
Everthing I ever did for money had nothing to do with my main talents or training because I was never able to integrate them into my life without detracting from my family.
Never the less,I always learned torah in some capacity or another; I've had cheverusahs for years. I taught callahs for 16 years. I wrote. I was an ante-natal teacher and I still counsel breastfeeding. I acted in plays and skits and got involved with the local neshei.All of this was done at night or other times when it would interfere with family life as little as possible.
My training is in art and science.
I had many years where I did none of the above because I have extremely difficult pregnancies, I've had serious pnumonia twice, mono and hepititis. I had a baby with a bad CDH who was in a cast for months and a child with a serious liver ailment which needed much time and treatment.My extended family has needed me through illness and death and T.G., recovery. Those years were all about survival.
When I look back I simlutaneously get a warm fuzzy feeling and am somewhat horrified.
I have no doubt I did the right thing staying home, even though I feel I gave up a lot to do it. It seems to me that if you want something big you often have it give up big.
Not everyone has to, nisyonos are individual.
I have no regrets, not a one, funnily enough. So many people, often through no fault of their own, feel ike they've missed out on years, especially of their children's childhood. Despite the tough times, I feel like I didn't miss a thing.
We had no money a lot of the time, we spent many years eating vegetarian except Shabbos, when I would buy one chicken for the whole Shabbos. We rarely went on vacation,or even trips.Our furniture is shabby and we never did buy a nice dining room table. We always seemed to get what we needed,however, and without depending on other people.
My older kids, two of whom are married now, turn to me and say: "We had fun, didn't we? Our childhood was a lot of fun." The others agree.
I think mothering, like everthing else in life, is a dynamic. There will be ups, there will be downs and they don't stop. A dynamic means that it grows, it changes and we respond, or we change it and it responds.I suspect equlibrium isn't something you find much in this world.
Every carrer choice has it challeges, full time mothering has some big ones because a lot of us aren't trained for it and because, nowadays, most women live in isolation. It's good to aware of this and to tell yourself that it's ok.
Women, like most people, come in all types. Most of their conversation is intelligent because most of it has to do with who they are and what they do. Even shopping, shopping is an art. Not every woman is an intellectual, however. Neither is every man. If a person has an intellectual bent and they are not living in acedemia or a similar environment, they will find it hard to find people to talk to. They are there, however, you just have to look for them.
So what's the solution (if there is a problem)? Being proactive. And when you can't because life is too overwhelming? Survive, learn to accept challenge with love and know, that whatever is happening now, it's almost never forever. (cf tehillim 23, the malbim and R. Hirsch)
Easier said than done, believe me I know.
To all the nashim tzikanios (righteous jewish women, which means all of you)in our generation, who daily are bringing Moshiach just like the nashim tzidkaniyos of Mitzrayim (Egypt), chazak v'ematz liebchem (strengthen and give courage to your hearts)You're doing great work!

(38) Esther, July 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Each woman are unique

I am inclined to agree with Mrs. Braverman - however, I found the same problem talking to other women WITHOUT children. (Instead of "what diaper brand do you buy?' the converwsation was "where do you shop?") Some women are intellectual, some aren't - kids or not. I do agree, though, that after the baby stage is over, there is no reason for a woman not to have any of her own interests or activities. (Obviously the first few years do require your full-time attention.) Children can help around the house to help get chores finished sooner, then learn that there are times when they must entertain themselves while Mommy has her own time - whether it is to read the newspaper, talk on the phone or engage in a hobby. My 3 year old already understands this concept - certainly children who are older can handle it. If your kids are always allowed to interupt you (beyond a certain age where they can't help it) you have a serious problem. Then it is a matter of seeking ut other women with similar interests, either by joining a club, volunteering, or just finding a discussion group on the internet.

(37) Chani Hadad, July 17, 2005 12:00 AM

It's not just kid-talk

I'm a part-time working mother of five who also craves "grown-up" conversation, however, I infinitely prefer talk of motherhood to shopping, fashion, or recipes.

(36) Kathy Alongi, July 17, 2005 12:00 AM

I identify with this article (as I do with many of your reads)...
however, even my own mental outlook took on a new dimension when hormones came into play -
women's hormones make them more relaxed about life in general, I have heard, & found true in my own life -
please pass this along to the author - has she considered the affect hormones make - I can't remember the name of the hormone that kicks in especially when mother's nurse, but its REAL!

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